Dallas Eakins promises Oilers won't be easy to play against

New Oilers coach Dallas Eakins made it immediately clear at his introductory press conference on Monday that talent won't be enough to ensure a player a spot in the Edmonton lineup.

Edmonton names 5th coach in 7 seasons

Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish introduces the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Eakins, right, during a press conference in Edmonton on Monday. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish introduced Dallas Eakins as the club's new head coach on Monday.

Eakins, 46, has spent the last four seasons coaching the Toronto Marlies. The American Hockey League team reached the Calder Cup final in 2012.

The Oilers did not immediately release contract details.

Edmonton has not made the playoffs since their last appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2006, when they lost in seven games in the final to Carolina.

Eakins said it was his goal for the Oilers to be "in the mix" to win every season, and the competitiveness and fitness level of the team would be high priorities.

No players were mentioned by name, of course, but Eakins delivered a shot across the bow to an Edmonton team that contains several supremely skilled players under the age of 25.

"I think there may be some big adjustments with me coming in here," said Eakins. "I am somebody that firmly believes that if you're talented, just being talented is not enough. I want our players to be so fit, that a forward, if I ask him to play 26 minutes that night, he's going to play 26 minutes at a high level."

Eakins last AHL training camp famously called forward Nazem Kadri's body fat index as "unacceptable." Kadri would ultimately score 26 goals and 49 assists in 70 games combined spent with the Marlies and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Eakins spent 120 games as an NHL defenceman between 1992 and 2002, with brief stays with several teams, including Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary.

He got a laugh out of the reporters by referring to his lack of talent as a player, as relayed to him by late NHL coach and fellow Peterborough, Ont., native Roger Neilson. Eakins counted Neilson and Paul Maurice among his coaching mentors.

He also said that he made good use of his time as a healthy scratch in pressboxes around the NHL.

"I wasn't just sitting upstairs eating popcorn. I was taking notes," he said.

After retiring as a player, Eakins spent time as an assistant with the Marlies and the Leafs before taking over as head coach of the AHL club in 2009. Eakins led the Marlies to a 157-114-41 regular season record.

Wait and see for Buchberger, Smith

MacTavish said he interviewed Eakins, along with president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe and senior VP of hockey operations Scott Howson, last week in Toronto.

MacTavish said it became apparent that Eakins was more qualified to become head coach of the club than serve in an associate coach capacity.

"He had too much polish and pedigree not to land one of the NHL jobs available," MacTavish said.

MacTavish, who succeeded Steve Tambellini as GM in April, subsequently fired Ralph Krueger on Saturday. Krueger led the Oilers to a 19-22-7 in his lone full season as an NHL head coach.

MacTavish said he saw something unique in the way Eakins approached his coaching role.

"He was getting players to do things that as a coach I knew were very difficult to get players to do," he said.

"I always felt that the teams that were most prepared off the face-off before the puck was going to drop had a real residual effect on their overall team game. Their teams, every time that puck dropped, were very well-prepared."

For his part, Eakins said he was surprised to be offered the head coach position. He reportedly interviewed recently for the Vancouver's head coaching position.

Eakins said it was his goal for the Oilers to be "in the mix" to win every season, and the competitiveness and fitness level of the team would be high priorities.

Eakins said that he and the Oilers brass haven't discussed the futures of assistant coaches Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger.

Eakins got a couple congratulatory shout-outs from his old organization.

"Congrats to [Eakins] on getting the job in Edmonton. Great man, great coach," tweeted Leafs defenceman Mike Kostka.

Former Leafs general manager Brian Burke added his own tweet.

"Congratulations to Dallas Eakins. He has worked very hard for this opportunity. An excellent young coach."

Edmonton is slated to pick seventh in the upcoming NHL draft after having selected first for three consecutive years.

With files from The Canadian Press